“When you meet someone better than yourself, turn your thoughts to becoming his equal. When you meet someone not as good as you are, look within and examine your faults.” – Confucius

Waiting for luggage at the airport carousel is typically quite dull. So imagine my surprise when I bumped into South African rugby fullback, Percy Montgomery. Being a less than ardent follower of the sport, I didn’t know whether congratulations or condolences were in order. Besides, the last thing I wanted was to be the umpteenth fan desperate to finally know his brand of shampoo.

Obviously, not many others shared my sentiments. It wasn’t long before the entire terminal was abuzz with whispers and giggles about our golden boys. And it wasn’t long before the entire team was surrounded by supporters keen on getting autographs, cell phone pics, as well as an inside scoop ahead of the World Cup.

One woman in particular could barely contain her excitement. She frantically rushed over to her husband and son to recall her life-changing brush with fame. And she managed to get some pictures too! Oh, what joy! The world was good and her life was complete. If this was her last day on earth, she could rest assured knowing her work was done. She was content, she was whole, and she was finally at peace.

It just doesn’t make sense. On the one hand, I think it’s healthy. Meeting the people we admire from afar can be quite inspiring, especially for youngsters wishing to follow in their footsteps. It’s nice to know they’re not so different from the rest of us mere mortals. And it’s nice to know that we too can achieve what they have, should that be our goal.

But on the other hand, it’s not healthy at all. Instead of focusing on lifting ourselves up to higher levels, it plots to bring celebrities down to ours. It baffles me that we live in a world where pseudo-journalists are allowed to peddle their garbage as newsworthy material (to the point where trashy publications outsell all respectable ones) and where the trivial and trite dominate conversations time and again.

What concerns me most is that all this fretting over the frivolous is coming at the expense of things that really matter. Why can nobody stop talking about the latest reality show? Why not talk about actual reality? Maybe that’s okay for prepubescent tweens, but definitely not for those of us who should be over that by now.

While it might feel reassuring to see that even the hotshots have problems, does it make sense for us to spend our hard-earned money funding something that basically exploits our insecurities? Trying to make ourselves feel better by tearing other people down is, like, so not hot.

(This article is adapted from a post I wrote on Varsity Blah.)